Why is it called a Shaker door?
We’ve all heard of the term shaker door to describe a type of cabinet door. Did you know that the name comes from religious colonial folk who used to shake about while they were dancing and speaking in tongues? They were The Shakers.
“What have they got to do with cabinet doors?” I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you all about it.
First of all, I should explain what shaker doors are. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page. They’re a very popular door design, with a simple square indent. It looks like there’s a flat frame around them and the centre is completely flat. All edges are square and there’s no other ornamentation.
When I discuss this profile as an option with my clients, the main concern I get from them is regarding the cleaning. The indentation catches dirt, making it a little more effort to clean compared to a flat door. I agree with them, you should consider if your lifestyle can accommodate this.
This is also the case with anything that has some sort of dust catching element to it, like skirting boards or open shelves. Sometimes it’s worth the effort because it adds character and interest to the room.
Shaker doors also cost more than a flat door, usually. That’s because there’s extra work involved in manufacturing it.
What are Shaker doors made of?
Usually they’re made of MRMDF (moisture resistant medium density fibreboard) and painted with 2pack (the same polyurethane paint that’s used on cars). The indent creates a problem because the spray paint builds up in the corners and it needs to be sanded. This defect stands out even more on a high gloss finish.
Although this is a problem that’s easily rectified, it’s still more time consuming than painting many other styles of doors. Hence the higher price tag.
An alternative Shaker door product is vinyl wrap or thermofoil doors. Personally I don’t think they look as good as a 2pack door. The foil is thicker than paint and the indent isn’t quite as sharp or square on it’s edge. These doors are highly impact resistant though, meaning they don’t chip on the edges.
Of course a solid timber door is a perfect example of shaker style. It being the traditional material, the original and the best. The construction is far superior, with it’s mortise and tenon joints. It can be clear lacquered, stained or painted.
Today, most people avoid too much exposed timber because it’s heavy looking. It won’t achieve the overall look that they want. White is the most common selection, and the most versatile.
I think a successful scheme has a good balance between natural timber and clean finishes. It also excites me when I see people playing around with unexpected colour.
Are shaker doors a modern style?
Yes and no.
Shaker style doors work with pretty much any style of home. They’re classed as a traditional style, however they can also be used successfully in a contemporary setting.
They’re traditional because the style goes back hundreds of years, they have a heritage. However, the flat, square, simple design lends itself to a modern aesthetic as well.
Shaker style lives on
Shaker doors have been around for as long as I can remember. As a kitchen designer, I remember using them even before they were on trend. They’re enduring. I would say they’re even more popular now than they’ve ever been. Especially now that we’re increasingly influenced by international styles via the internet and social media.
I’m in South Australia which is just about as far away, physically, from Europe and America as you can get. We have our own spin on things, but shaker doors are still going strong here. Particularly if you’re going for the Hampton’s look. I wrote a comprehensive blog post about this style here.
Now, getting back to those Shaker people...
Their style developed because of their religious beliefs. This is a very interesting concept, although not that surprising considering many of the art forms created in history were religious. Such as statues in the town square, and large paintings on walls and ceilings.
What’s interesting to me is how this form of religious design, or idea, was represented in everyday items for the home. They were colonial people and had to build everything for their homes and community out of nothing. Also (and this is an important point) making things was a form of worship to them, productive labour was an act of prayer. Every item they designed, lined up with their Puritan values exactly. Which was to live a pure, simple, unembellished life.
They created simple, well crafted furniture, during the late 19th century, and it became extremely popular. Consequently the current Shaker door style was born.
Their design idea is a very powerful one. I’m amazed at how it started with a small religious sect in one part of the world, and they’ve all but died off now, but their design idea still lives on. In fact it flourishes all over the world. It still inspires modern design today and as an extension of that, it inspires the way we want to live.
It demonstrates how important ideas live on (and evolve), way past the person who first came up with them. Ideas have a life of their own.